Poll Shows Peres Can't Clinch Labor Chair in First Round

Vice premier suffers from a lack of organizational infrastructure, can't get voters to the polls on election day.

A poll conducted for Haaretz by Dialog among Labor Party members last Saturday show Vice Premier Shimon Peres winning the party's November 9 primaries for party chairman with a comfortable 40.5 percent of the vote. Histadrut labor federation head Amir Peretz, MK, is in second place with 22 percent of the vote; Minister Matan Vilnai is third, with 12 percent; and MK Benjamin Ben-Eliezer comes in last with 10.8 percent.

Peres' lead, however, does not ensure a first-round victory, for which 50 percent of the vote is required. Peres, whose organizational infrastructure is considered deficient, barely topped 40 percent, but if the primaries were held today, he apparently would not reach that figure. In that case another round of voting would be necessary two weeks later. If a second round between Peres and Peretz were to be held today, the poll shows Peres would beat Peretz by anywhere from 30 percent to 60 percent.

All the candidates, including Peres, agree that Peretz has the most efficient organization, and that the polls underestimate his standing. The candidates also all agree that the Peres campaign is not as well-equipped to get the voters to the polls on election day as the Peretz camp is. However, Peretz's advantage in that area would not erase the gap between himself and Peres unless some dramatic turn of events occurs in the coming month.

Theoretically, the poll shows, it is Ben-Eliezer who is standing in the way of a clear Peres victory in the first round. If Ben-Eliezer withdrew his candidacy and brought his well-oiled machine into the Peres camp, it would certainly tip the scales in favor of the vice premier. Feelers have been put out, mainly from Peres' direction. But for now Ben-Eliezer seems determined to see the race through, in the hope that the impossible will happen and he will be the one to face off against Peres in a second round.

Matan Vilnai is also fighting for the right to lose to Peres. Until a few months ago, Vilnai seemed certain to make it to the second round against Peres. However his campaign ran into trouble, especially as as result of the massive membership drive conducted by Peretz. Vilnai now has nothing left to do but complain about previously disqualified names being added to the roster of Labor voters. Labor's voter rolls, which are to be finally closed in a few days, are expected to contain over 100,000 names.